Patients’ pain as KNH workers opt for strike

Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers Secretary General Albert Njeru during a Press briefing in Nairobi. [Peter Oloo, Standard]

Services at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) will be paralysed from today as workers begin a strike to push for higher salaries.

The Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions and Hospital Workers (Kudheiha) has called the strike after expiry of a 14-day notice to protest failure to implement a State resolution that upgraded the hospital’s parastatal status.

The strike will take effect despite a move by the KNH management to comply with one of the demands tabled by the union on house allowances when the strike notice was issued on August 21.

The union said despite issuing the strike notice, neither the hospital nor officials from the ministries of Labour and Health had engaged them.

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“To our surprise, no serious discussion, attempt or commitment has come from either management of KNH or the Government,” said Kudheiha Secretary General Albert Njeru.

Mr Njeru said they would cease to offer services until their demands are met. “If no action is taken between now and midnight, all employees of KNH will down their tools.”

The union is demanding the implementation of resolutions from the State Corporation Advisory Committee that were passed in 2012, which upgraded the hospital’s parastatal status from 3C to 7A.

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The upgrade, as detailed in a circular dated September 13, 2012, came with an improvement in the salaries of all staff.

The changes in remuneration were to be reflected in the workers’ basic salaries and allowances, including house and leave allowances.

“But it is only the hospital chief executive officer and senior management who benefited. Is KNH being run by the management alone?” Njeru posed.

KNH acting CEO Evanson Kamuri, in an internal memo to all staff dated September 6, indicated that the hospital had finally acquired the necessary budget to implement changes in house allowances.

“In light of the above, the requisite funding has been obtained to pay the arrears for the period July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2019. The same will be paid together with the September 2019 salaries,” said Dr Kamuri in the circular.

But the union has dismissed the memo as a ploy to forestall the industrial action.

“The house allowance arrears is something we had agreed on last year and was yet to be implemented. The management has been cornered and is just using this to make us stop the strike,” said Njeru.

The official said the strike would affect both medical and non-medical staff as long as they are employed by the hospital, despite union affiliation.

According to the 2012 resolutions, a letter addressed to then KNH CEO Richard Lesiyampe from the defunct Ministry of Medical Services gave the metrics on how new salaries would be calculated.

The lowest basic salary for the hospital CEO was set at Sh400,000, while maximum had been capped at Sh560,000. House allowance was to be between Sh60,000 and Sh80,000.

“Please note that the salary band should be used by the Board in the determination of salaries for the rest of the staff,” read the letter signed by then Permanent Secretary Mary Ngari.

In a letter dated February 12, 2013, to the Finance PS, KNH detailed the breakdown of the salaries from the CEO to the lowest Job Group K16/17.

While the CEO’s basic salary was settled at Sh400,000, that of the lowest worker was set at Sh17,535. “We are committed to serve Kenyans but the terms and conditions of the workers should be improved,” said Njeru.

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